A teenager who dies during childbirth leaves clues in her journal that could tie her child to a rape involving a violent Russian mob family.A teenager who dies during childbirth leaves clues in her journal that could tie her child to a rape involving a violent Russian mob family.A teenager who dies during childbirth leaves clues in her journal that could tie her child to a rape involving a violent Russian mob family.
It's a little wonder that there haven't been too many serious movies about the Russian Mafia, yet, so having a movie that takes place in these circles is fascinating all by itself. Cronenberg sets the story up slowly, but nicely. He never falls into the trap of slowing things down too much as he did with his previous two movies. Cronenberg also avoids getting too close to the style of the genre's Big Kahuna, Martin Scorsese. This is a completely original effort, which sets it apart from 2007's snorefest "American Gangster", that didn't contribute anything new to the gangster genre at all.
The cast is, of course, very helpful. Viggo Mortensen and Vincent Cassell look threatening, cold-blooded and emotional all at the same time. You really forget the actors and start looking at them as the characters they embody. Armin Mueller-Stahl who plays the gangster boss wasn't quite as convincing. During the movie we hear all those cruel and crazy things he's done, but when we see him on screen we can't really imagine that he's capable of all that. The weakest link in the cast, however, is Naomi Watts, who plays the same way she always does and comes across as pretty one-dimensional. She has deservedly gotten a lot of praise for "Mullholland Dr." but failed to present a comparably great performance ever since. She's just good enough not to ruin the intensity of this movie.
"Eastern Promises" is aesthetic, explicit and thrilling. There are some scenes you won't forget for weeks to come (the sauna fight, the opening sequence). In short, what we have here is a modern classic. One of last year's finest and possibly the best movie David Cronenberg has made so far.
- Jan 2, 2008